By some incredible quirk of marketing by vacation industry mandarins, the ‘high season’ for visitors to Bali has been mandated to co-incide with the rainy season. Everyone knows that, but they still pay inflated prices for everything during a time when they are sure to be regularly saturated. High season in Bali is hot, humid – and can be very, very wet.
When it does rain, it is usually a deluge. The gutters, which double as defacto rubbish bins – invariably flood. This might be because of the cunning placement of outlet drains uphill from the rest of the watercourse, or maybe because those ubiquitous plastic bags are blocking the pipes. The result is a temporary tropical Venice – without gondoliers. However, the deep gutters, while marginal at best for draining water, serve another function – they eat cars. The channels are very close to the edge of the road, so to turn into a narrow gang with equally deep ravines requires an excellent understanding of the different turning radii of one’s front and back wheels. If you lack this understanding, the ever-present locals will gladly right your capsized vehicle and jack your inside back wheel out of the ditch – but of course, you’ll need to have your wallet handy.
Bali currently has a serious water shortage. Many lakes are dry and underground water is disappearing as people suck increasing amounts from rapidly depleting aquifers. So the rains are welcome from a purely hydrological point of view – even though it would be nice to have more catchment wells to make use of the downpours and help raise the water table. I know we need more water, but my rampant self-interest dictates that I personally want this rainy season to be over, and as quickly as possible. Yes, I’m socially irresponsible.
You see, I have begun to suspect that I’m a Rainmaker. I don’t actually make the stuff, but I can make it rain on command simply by forming an intention to do something that involves going outside. I think it’s a quantum mechanics effect, where the mere presence of a participant can affect the outcome of an otherwise purely physical process. Let me give you a few examples from last week.
It’s morning, and after the usual nightly downpour, the skies lighten and the drizzle fizzles out just in time for breakfast. So at about 9am, I putter off on my motorbike to the local purveyor of fine eggs and bacon. Within seconds of leaving home, it starts raining, and it does so relentlessly until, dripping wet, I sit down for breakfast. The rain instantly stops, then starts again when I get on the bike. This happens no matter what time I decide to head off in the morning. Quantum rain.
Then there’s afternoon Coffee Time – a ritual discovered by those who had become used to multiple daily coffees in our pre-Bali days. Before, I used to get so distracted here I tended to neglect my caffeine fix - only to be rewarded by a niggling headache by mid-afternoon. No, it’s not the lunch-time Bintangs, it’s actually caffeine withdrawal. The pre-emptive anti-headache coffee became part of my daily life here, but I still have to get to the coffee shop. And of course, it rains the instant I leave home, stops during my coffee and obligingly resumes as soon as I leave. Quantum rain.
Dinner time is usually better. The clouds often clear by evening, meaning that if I change into something that creates a modest display of sartorial elegance – or at least something better than the traditional Bintang singlet – I can stay relatively immaculate during the trip to the restaurant. But of course, it inevitably pours as soon as I leave, meaning that I arrive home a sodden, bedraggled mess. You guessed it – quantum rain.
In fact, anytime I go out on the motorbike, it rains. The water comes down vertically from above, and horizontally from taxis whose drivers take delight in timing their puddle entries to achieve the maximum splash trajectory. It also comes up vertically. I tried to ride through a large puddle, only to find that its deceptively flat surface concealed a pit of such monumental proportions that I ended up sitting in water up to my crotch. At least it greatly amused the watching locals, who apparently sit around watching each new arrival plunge into the abyss. I suspect they actually dug the hole. I’m reliably informed that it’s better than cock-fighting, and it’s not illegal either.
Lest it be inferred that I am a sullen troglodyte who doesn’t care about Bali’s water shortage, I’m willing to compromise with the forces of nature and the imperatives of tropical climatology. I am happy to let it rain heavily during the hours that I am asleep. I am even prepared to let it rain during the day, as long as I am under cover, napping or indisposed. But I do insist that it stop before I have to ride anywhere. Surely climate scientists could work on creating this new Bali weather pattern for me? It’s obviously a viable, equitable solution for my moisture problem - and surely easier than that Climate Change stuff they’re all playing with. And I’m giving them this revolutionary idea for free – now that should make those who thought I was a spoilt, self-absorbed pillock change their mind.